While the thought of another Bird in Antigua and Barbuda politics may be eagerly anticipated by labour party supporters, some observers have turned their attention to the possible implications should the prime minister’s wife, Maria Bird-Browne, enter public office.
Regional political analyst Peter Wickham said during a panel discussion on OBSERVER AM on Wednesday that her possible election as a representative and then appointment to her husband’s Cabinet could lead to a delicate
situation for PM Gaston Browne.
“It’s a very difficult issue for one to navigate. Along the way, one will have to be conscious not only of how things are done but also how they appear to be done, and I think the appearances are really where challenges will come in. So it’s going to be a challenging one for him to navigate,” he said.
The sentiment was echoed by fellow panelist, Elizabeth Thompson, U.N. assistant secretary general, who said that is “the heart of the issue.”
“I think that in the context of a marriage, if the prime minister’s wife wins the nomination and is then appointed to Cabinet that it really could be very interesting in the way the decision-making is made. While I would expect that people would be completely professional in that situation, there is a question as to whether or not one’s spouse would feel that they were obliged to support the other spouse in the things that they might want to do.”
Thompson raised the issue of whether the PM would oppose his wife as readily as he would any other Cabinet member, or if either of them would be able to divorce themselves from their emotional ties and the possible impact on their personal life.
“But I don’t believe that it will influence either one of them to make decisions that are not in the interest of the country, but that they will make decisions that tend to support each other in a way that they may not have if there was not that emotional connection. They may have been more dispassionate about policy issues, brought more critical analysis, because they are not carrying each other’s emotional support as well,” Thompson said.
Wickham was also asked about the chances of the other two women running for the same seat as the prime minister’s wife. They are current Senate President Alincia Williams-Grant and fellow Senator Shenella Govia.
According to him, they may have a good chance if there was a strong sentiment that they were being treated unfairly.
“Because, bear in mind, that a primary is an open vote and people get to vote with some level of confidentiality and it can very well turn in their favour. But I must tell you that, on the face of it, going into a battle against the wife of the prime minister isn’t easy, and I don’t know that I would envy either of the individuals to go up against a person of that ilk in a situation like this.
(More in today’s Daily Observer)